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The History and Meaning Behind 10 Classic Tattoo Styles

Tattoos have been around for a very long time. The oldest direct evidence we have about them comes from the 5,300-year-old Otzi the Iceman, whose remains were discovered by accident in 1991 by a group of hikers high up in the Italian Alps. Archaeologists believe that tattooing has been taking place since as early as the Neolithic, probably even earlier. From various remote islands in the Arctic Circle, to as far away as China, Africa, and Polynesia, tattooing has been an integral cultural part of society.

Sometimes plain and sometimes exquisitely elaborate, these permanent markings on the human body were used either as talismans, status symbols, wards, or even as a form of punishment for the wearer. Here, we will be looking at some of these tattoos (both old and new) and understand what they actually stand for.

10. Sailor Tattoos

It’s a commonly-held belief that European sailors developed their own style of tattooing after Captain Cook’s famous voyages across the Pacific during the 18th century. This theory is also partially reinforced by the fact that the word itself comes from the Tahitian and Samoan tatau, which means something along the lines of ‘mark made on skin.’ But even if the Europeans didn’t have a specific word for this practice, they did use others to describe it – words like pricking or staining. Anyway, after encountering the heavily-tattooed Polynesian peoples, sailors began creating their own unique style. Their tattoos were also heavily influenced by the famous sailor superstitions, with various designs depicting things considered to bring good luck while at sea. Other designs, however, stood for various achievements in the oftentimes perilous life of a sailor.

The anchor, for instance, stands for a sailor crossing the Atlantic. A swallow, on the other hand, means 5,000 nautical miles travelled. A shellback turtle means crossing the equator, while crossed cannons represent a veteran on a military vessel. Nautical stars are talismans ensuring a safe journey, while a fully-rigged ship means a sailor who’s been around Cape Horn in South America.

9. Polynesian Tattoos

Located in the Central and South Pacific, Polynesia is comprised of roughly 1,000 islands. Many of these have been inhabited by different groups of people, collectively known as Polynesians, but which share a common ancestry, similar language, customs, and beliefs. Prior to encountering the Europeans, these peoples had no written language, but they did make use of tattoos to express themselves. This practice was so common among the Polynesians, particularly the Samoans, Tongans, and Marquesas, that almost everyone in the community had them. These permanent markings held a tremendous significance, indicating the wearer’s status within that society, as well as their skills in warfare.

Rooted within their own religious beliefs, the different areas of the body also have their own meaning. And in combination with different tattoos, each person became a canvas, telling an individual story. The head stands for wisdom, knowledge, and intuition; the chest is related to honor, sincerity, and generosity; the shoulders and upper arms indicate strength and bravery; the lower trunk, which extends from the navel to the thighs, indicates courage, independence, sexuality, and procreation; while the lower arms and hands relates to creativity and craftsmanship.

As for the actual tattoos, the Polynesians used various stylized designs of objects and creatures they saw around them. Shark teeth, for instance, represent protection, strength, and guidance. The stingray is a symbol of protection, speed, agility, and stealth. The ocean (oftentimes represented by a series of waves) means life, change, and rebirth. The tiki is a representation of a dead relative or chieftain that became a semi-deity and symbolizes protection and fertility. Tiki eyes are a symbol of defiance towards enemies. The turtle is a symbol for longevity, health, unity, and family, while lizards are a good or bad luck charm, depending on the circumstances.

8. Maori Tattoos

Even though the Maori, native to New Zealand, are part of the Polynesian group of people, their tattoo style is notably different than the rest. Unlike the others, the Maori developed their own technique known as Ta moko, which is strongly rooted in local mythology and linked to the many geological features of the region. Similar to the many earthquakes and volcanoes that scar the land, so too the Ta moko leaves permanent marks on the human body. While the other Polynesians made use of certain tools that pierced the skin and applied the ink, the Maori used tiny chisels that literally carved their way through the person’s face and body, leaving behind grooves instead on a smooth surface. And as the head was considered the most sacred part of the body, the face received the most attention.

Each of these tattoos was unique to the wearer, conveying that person’s heritage, genealogy, social standing, and knowledge. All of the symbols had a certain meaning and so did the area of the face in which they were carved. The checks signified that person’s profession; the chin signified prestige; the jaw represented birth status; the forehead designated rank; the area around the temples signified marital status; the area around the eyes and nose referred to the tribe; while the upper lip was used for person’s own personal signature.

7. Chinese Tattoos

It would be wrong to think of China as a homogenous country with the same culture, traditions, and even language all throughout. When it comes to tattoos, the general stance in both modern and ancient China was linked to convicts, slaves, bandits, and the criminal underworld. China is, however, a pretty big place and not all of its regions are the same. It seems that historically, the southern part of the country has been more open to this art form, not attaching so much negative stigma to it. There are also several tribes within China that have embraced the practice over the centuries.

The Dulong people, for instance, have a tattooing history that spans back some 350 years. When they were attacked by neighboring tribes, the women would tattoo their faces as a means to make themselves uglier and escape being taken into slavery. The Dai people, on the other hand, tattoo much of their hands, arms, and backs – and each of these body parts, as well as the tattoos, have a special significance. Their tattoos are said to have protective power, enhance their attractiveness, improve their intelligence and strength, and can even cure disease. As a Westerner, however, it is important to do some thorough research prior to getting a Chinese tattoo, so as to make sure that they’re the real thing, or that they have a positive connotation.

6. Irish Tattoos

Tattoos in Europe were somewhat pushed underground during the Middle Ages, with the rise of Christianity on the continent – primarily because they were linked to previous pagan beliefs. And this was true to a large extent, since many European tribes such as the Celts, Germanics, Vikings, and Picts were all heavily tattooed or painted. Many of their designs were inspired by the natural world surrounding them, and were mentioned by some of the people they encountered. But no detailed examples remain behind – unless you take into account the various stone monuments or other objects from that period. Nevertheless, the Irish seem to have been the primary inheritors of this old European tradition.

The Celtic Tree of Life is deeply rooted in Druidic practices and it’s said to represent a bridge between the worlds. The Dara Knot, or Oak Tree Knot in Gaelic, depicts an intricate root system and stands as a reminder of great strength and stability in the face of adversity. The salmon is considered a symbol of wisdom, introspection, and deep knowledge. The bird represents freedom and liberation, while the butterfly stands for transformation, rebirth, and tranquility. Probably the most iconic is the Celtic cross. It’s not entirely clear where exactly it first originated, but it’s believed to have happened during the 9th century. There’s also the belief that St. Patrick came up with its design by combining the Christian cross with local artistic motifs as a means of Christianizing Ireland.

5. Russian Criminal Tattoos

Branding criminals was a common practice throughout Russia up until it was banned in 1863. These brands were usually applied on the cheeks, forehead, or shoulders, and they were used to indicate their crimes and respective punishments. From the 1930s, different criminal castes emerged, like the so-called Suits or Authoritative Thieves, each with its own tattoos denoting affiliation, rank, and reputation. Misappropriations were seen as a great transgression and could be punishable by death. The prisoner could also be allowed to remove it himself, by using a knife, sandpaper, or a shard of glass. After WWII and the implementation of the Gulag system under the Soviets, the number of political prisoners and petty criminals skyrocketed, leading to a much larger variation in designs.

These Russian criminal tattoos have also evolved over time, taking on new meanings or adding new designs. Among these we have the stars, which indicate a high rank. The bowtie is forcibly applied to pickpockets who’ve broken the thieves’ code. A snake around the neck means drug addiction. A lighthouse or birds on the horizon denote a desire for freedom. A pair of eyes on the stomach or buttocks indicates homosexuality, but if it’s on the chest, it means “I’m watching you.” A church on the chest indicates a thief, and the number of cupolas it has translates to the number of convictions. A rose on the chest means that the wearer turned 18 in prison, while a skull and bones indicate life in prison. The hooded executioner is worn by someone who killed a relative, while the mermaid, in this context, indicates child molestation.

4. Japanese Tattoos

Japan has had a fairly up and down history with tattoos. Archeological evidence points to the fact that tattoos were used as early as the Paleolithic. Chinese documents from around 300 AD also mention that the Japanese used them as a means of differentiating social status. But after that period onward, tattoos began having mostly negative connotations, being used predominantly on criminals as a sort of branding punishment. It was only during the Edo Period (1600–1868 AD) that the current form of Japanese tattoos developed.

It was through the iconic Japanese art of woodblock printing that tattooing also developed in the country – and by using the same tools, no less. As a result, these tattoos are not individual designs with different meanings, but rather large and elaborate scenes inspired by philosophical or mythological stories found in theatrical plays, novels, or historical texts. It was also customary for the tattoo artist to choose what scenes to ink.

The art form was, nevertheless, outlawed in 1868, being viewed as barbaric and disrespectful. It was later legalized, in 1948, but it kept much of the stigma attached to it. Japanese tattoos are thus strongly linked to the criminal underworld, particularly the Yakuza (Japanese Mafia). Tattoo shops are extremely rare in Japan, with most being located around tourist areas or near American military bases. In 2012, the mayor of Osaka launched a campaign where government workers should not be allowed to have any visible tattoos. Most public swimming pools and bathhouses also ban people with tattoos, or ask people to cover them up.

3. Thai Tattoos

Traditional tattooing in Thailand is believed to have originated with the Khmer Empire, sometime during the 9th century AD. Known as Sak Yant, this century-old tradition is a mix of Buddhism, Hinduism, shamanistic spells, and old myths that morphed over the centuries into a present-day ritual performed by monks in temples across the country. The powers these tattoos are said to bestow on the wearer do not come solely from the designs themselves, but also by the continuous prayers recited throughout the entire process. The tool used is a 3-foot-long bamboo rod with a metal needle at the end, which the monk uses somewhat similar to a pool cue. There are hundreds of traditional designs, many of them depicting animals such as tigers, dragons, snakes, leopards, or phoenixes. All, however, are surrounded by the appropriate mantras and yantras, so as to imbue them with the appropriate powers.

The placement on the body also holds great significance. The Thai believe that the soul resides in the head, and the closer the tattoo is to the head, the more powerful it becomes. Some tattoos, such as those depicting Buddha or the Lotus, are said to bring luck and keep evil spirits away. A tattoo directly on the scalp is said to ‘flood your head with blessings to protect your soul.’ To improve your confidence and speaking skills, you will need a Golden-Tongued Bird tattoo, which is applied right on the tongue and it’s said to be extremely painful. The tiger is usually found on the lower back, because it’s from here that its spirit will take charge of your life.

2. American Gang Tattoos

Having the largest number of incarcerated people per capita in the entire world, the United States prison system is also home to members of some of the most dangerous gangs on the planet. We won’t be able to talk about each of these gangs individually, but instead will focus on some of the most common gang or prison tattoos out there. The teardrop tattoo, for instance, is mainly indicative of the wearer murdering someone, or spending time in prison.

The cobweb stands for a lengthy prison term. Three dots, either on the hand or face, indicate gang life. Five dots, however, mean time spent in prison, with four dots representing the walls, while the fifth is the prisoner. A clock without hands also stands for “doing time.” The clown mask stands for such saying like “Play now, pay later” or “Smile now, cry later.” The eight ball stands for bad luck. The number 88 stands for “Heil Hitler” – since H is the eighth letter of the alphabet. A tombstone with a number inside indicates the number of years behind bars. Most other tattoos, however, are various designs or abbreviations for each gang’s own name and logo.

1. Old and New School Tattoos

By and large, Old School Tattoos are those with bold black outlines, limited color palette, and defined by a specific imagery. Among the designs, we find the iconic patriotic tattoos such as the American flag, the eagle, the heart and dagger, as well as the previously-mentioned sailor tattoos. These designs were intentionally kept simple, as a way of accommodating more clients.

New School Tattoos began appearing probably sometime during the 1970s, or maybe later, and incorporated pop culture elements such as movie stars, Disney characters, Star Trek tech, and comic book art. As opposed to the old way of tattooing, this style is characterized by vivid colors, caricaturization, and the incorporation of many other elements from different other tattoo styles from around the world. Nevertheless, the Old School heritage is still visible, especially in the use of solid black outlines.

10 Uncomfortable Truths About the American Revolution

The American Revolution and the founding fathers are practically deified in modern America and many of the greatest figures from the period have been made into almost demigods of American myth and legend. However, the truth is that much of the reasoning for the revolution wasn’t as pure as the history books make it out to be, and while it may be insanely popular now, the common man back in the day, more or less, was less than enthused one way or the other. The American Revolution may have been the greatest triumph for early America, but things were not always what they seemed, and the Americans could not have achieved it without a lot of outside help.

10. George Washington Was Hardly A Singular Military Genius

George Washington is probably the most popular and non-controversial American in history, and for very good reason. He presided over the revolutionary forces as they sought to gain freedom for the colonies from Britain. He managed to keep up the morale of his men throughout extreme adversity, he pulled of a couple very clever sneak attacks, and overall managed to ingratiate himself so much with the people that they practically begged him to be president afterwards, and many were disappointed when he did not seek a third term — setting a precedent that would last until it was finally broken first by the Roosevelt family with an attempt, and then finally with a success at winning a third term in office.

However, while today most people in the United States consider him one of the greatest military minds of all time, many historians actually beg to differ. The truth is that General Washington lost way more battles than he won, and spent most of his time running away from fights. His most famous victory, the crossing of the Delaware, was a sneak attack that would have failed if not for a British commander disregarding a warning note. His most famous victory was a combination of luck and enemy ineptitude. George Washington did a good job of keeping up morale, and setting an example for the entire country, and he was very good at keeping his army from being pinned down or captured. However, the real credit for the genius military maneuvers, in most historians minds, goes to generals like Nathaniel Green, without whom the war effort would likely have been totally lost.

9. The British Were Spread Incredibly Thin, And We Still Needed Help From Their Strongest Enemies

The American Revolution is looked upon with great pride by most Americans, so it is really easy for Americans to play up their own part, and forget how close things really were, or just how much of a team effort it was — with the fledgling colonies really more of a bit player much of the time. The truth was that, at the time, the colonies were fighting for independence and the British Empire, as usual for the time, had their fingers in every pie imaginable. They were in one way or another irking their other powerful neighbors in Europe, and so it was in this atmosphere that the colonists managed to wrest control of their lives from the British Crown.

The French were the biggest key of all, and the naval help they provided simply cannot be underestimated. Without their naval blockades of key areas at the right time, and their naval support against what was a far superior navy than ours, we wouldn’t have been able to even get the revolution off the ground. The Spanish also played a very big part; by having a second war front against the British, it spread them even thinner and made it harder for them to focus all their energies on their colonies in the Americas. Much of the support from our allies in Europe, especially the French, was negotiated very carefully by Benjamin Franklin, whose deals in Paris may have single-handedly tipped the balance to win the colonies their freedom.  

8. The American Revolution Was Not Nearly As Popular At Home As You Might Think

The American Revolution today is probably the most well-regarded historical event in the history of the United States, and you couldn’t possibly find a person alive in the country who would criticize it. For this reason, especially due to the very exuberant history we all read, most of us figure that people were just itching to get out and fight for the cause of freedom from the British. However, the truth is that things were almost entirely the opposite. Now, when the war first broke out there was quite a rush of volunteers, but the enthusiasm didn’t last long. Life as a soldier is grim and brutal, and many of them had farms back at home that they were afraid would languish and fall to ruin if they weren’t around to tend to them.

As the war started to drag on, Washington despaired of getting enough men by voluntary enlistment, and starting suggesting that congress instate a compulsory draft. While the congress did not instate this nationally, many of the fledgling states were already flexing their muscles to force people to join if enlistment quotas were not being met. However, lots of cash bounties were also offered including land offers to sweeten the pot and many soldiers admitted they only joined for the big payout, as they saw it as a way to move up economically. Also, there were still many British loyalists (known as Tories) living in the country, and they were not interested in fighting against the crown they still held sentiment for. The fight for freedom from England would mostly benefit rich landowners, so your average, poorer loyalist would see little reason to take up arms against the old homeland.  

7. The Revolutionary War Was Basically A Proxy War Between France and Great Britain

As we mentioned in an earlier entry, the revolutionary war had a great deal of involvement from the French, who supplied a lot of naval and other support that helped give the United States far more than just a fighting chance. However, it really requires a explanation to get the full extent of it. The truth is that the French were not just helping us out, but really had created a proxy war between themselves and the English right here on our soil, much like some proxy wars you see today — it was really just another bloody front in their prolonged political and military conflict with their neighbors in the British Isles.

The true extent of French involvement is staggering. Not only did they provide the vast majority of naval support, which we could not have done without, but they also provided training and let us borrow some experts to help us out, also much like you see today in proxy wars. They supplied us with the bulk of our ammo reserves, uniforms, boots, weapons, and pretty much everything else you need to fight a war. Many Americans find it a bit uncomfortable to admit, but without the French the fledgling colonies would probably have had little chance at all. While Benjamin Franklin is revered in American history, he may actually not get enough credit — it was his meetings with the French which sealed the full support of their government.

6. American Indians Fought For The British And Provided Excellent Guerrilla Warfare

One of the most enduring myths of the American Revolution is that Americans relied on guerrilla warfare to win, being mostly farmers who knew their land really, really well. Even some in Britain believe this silly myth to this day, but it isn’t really grounded in any real fact. For starters, this was a time period when guerrilla warfare in general was kind of difficult as the latest popular weapons were actually very inaccurate and extremely slow to reload, which could make ambush and hit and run tactics difficult to implement properly.

This does not mean they were not used at all, but when they were, the British had plenty of experience with the tactic, and had Native American allies who knew the land even better than the colonists, and used weapons like bows that were much better for guerrilla warfare than muskets. With their use of allied Native American forces, it is likely the British actually had a bit of an edge when it came to these kind of more sneaky tactics. The Native Americans, for those who did not know of their alliance with the British, joined voluntarily because they saw the British as being kinder to them than the colonists. Laws made and enforced by the British Crown made it harder for the colonists to take Native American lands away, so the natives saw the British troops as natural allies.

5. No Taxation Without Representation Really Only Applied To Rich White Landowners

The most famous reason for the American Revolution is that well known line “no taxation without representation.” The argument was that it was unfair for the British to heavily tax the Americans when they didn’t have proper representation in parliament based on their value to the British Crown and their size. This was really the main basis for the Boston Tea Party and the American Revolution at large, but as we mentioned most common folk didn’t see much reason to be very excited about joining after the initial euphoria over freedom.

The reason most people weren’t particularly enthralled by this idea is that the founding fathers really were only looking to get more rights for the citizens who already basically “had a vote” in the colonies to begin with. For starters, this was a time when women couldn’t vote anyway, the colonies were at war with the natives, and black people were enslaved. On top of that, to vote you were also expected to own land in almost all the colonies, even if you contributed significantly to your local economy in some other way. After the war almost all the colonies started to realize the hypocrisy, and eventually it changed state by state so any free adult male who paid taxes could vote — suffrage for various other groups would of course come much later still.

4. American’s Consider The Founders Christian, But Many Were Deists Or Masons

The founders are perhaps most beloved of all among the Christian right in America, which is strange in a way, because if they had a truly accurate picture of these mens’ beliefs they may not find them so endearing. Many of the founders called themselves Christian, but if you read their writings and philosophies, many sound more agnostic  — there were also a lot of openly Deist thinkers among the founding fathers. The idea of Deism is essentially that God created the universe, and then stepped out of the way and only gets involved on a largely cosmic scale — he’s not going to step in and throw in a tornado, or prevent someone from dying of malaria, and so on.

Some thinkers today believe that Deism is hardly that differently from many forms of atheism, and it is possible it was a way for an atheist at the time to fit into society while still explaining their beliefs — affirming to others they do believe in a just and loving God, but that they just don’t believe God intervenes in petty human affairs. This could also be because many of the founders were high level Masons, and it has been speculated by many historians that these Masonic connections may have been what helped Benjamin Franklin setup his most important diplomatic meetings in France to begin with. To be a Mason, you still had to be a Christian of some kind — although not a Catholic — so Deism may have been a mushy way to ingratiate yourself enough with the Masons to join them, even though you only want in for the brotherhood and power, not for the religion you don’t necessarily believe in.

3. King George III Did Not Put Extra Taxes On The Colonies Just To Be A Big Meanie

King George III is infamous in the USA as the evil tax levying king who unfairly tried to tax the American people into oblivion without even offering them representation in parliament. Most Americans know little of the history and just assume that he was a ruthless tyrant who wanted to take from people and offer nothing in return. However, the truth is that, as is often the case with history, things were a good bit more complicated than many have been led to believe. Just a few years prior to the beginning of the serious tit-for-tat over increasing taxes, the British were fresh off barely winning the Seven Years War. For those who aren’t too familiar with it, it was a war so all-continent and all-world power-encompassing that many historians now refer to it as World War Zero.

The two years that led up to the actual declaration of war started with quite a lot of skirmishes in the Americas, which was the beginning of what Americans know as the French and Indian War. However, Americans tend to be a bit insular in their thinking and most don’t know that once the war truly got into full swing and all declarations of war were official, the French and Indian War was just one of many bloody fronts all around the world. And, especially during the lead-up to the full war, the British spent a lot of money and resources in the Americas during the Seven Years War to protect the colonies, so they thought it would only be fair that the colonies help shoulder the economic losses from the protracted conflict.

2. Many Of The Most Famous Revolutionary Heroes Are Embellished Or Did Not Exist At All

The American Revolution is as much myth and legend now as anything else, and many of those myths are based on almost complete and utter fabrications. Two of the most famous legends involve that of Paul Revere and Molly Pitcher. Molly Pitcher was a woman who was allegedly bringing water to the troops, saw her husband die and took up his place at the cannon despite having no training, and soon tore into the enemy troops — some accounts even say she got medals for it. Paul Revere’s story, of course, is very well known. He rode off on his horse to Concord to warn the colonists that the British were coming and successfully saved the day.

However, the truth is that nearly all of that is untrue. To start with Molly Pitcher was likely not even a real person at all. Despite historians’ best efforts, they have been unable to find any evidence that a woman by that name even existed in first hand accounts. The only stories about Molly Pitcher were written about one hundred years later, which makes them rather suspect as factual stories. There are a handful of first hand accounts of women getting involved in battle during the revolution, but none matching that name or story. As for Paul Revere, he did ride his horse in an attempt to warn the colonists that the British were coming, but he was one of many — after the whole team was out he was one of forty people riding to warn the resistance. As a matter of fact he wasn’t the most effective messenger either, as he was temporarily waylaid by the British, and the one to reach Concord first to bring a warning was another fellow rider — Samuel Prescott.

1. The Revolutionary War Did Not Actually End Officially Even After The Surrender At Yorktown

It was an historic day on October 19, 1781 — the colonists, with the help of the French, had won their independence from Great Britain. The British General Cornwallis had surrendered at Yorktown to George Washington and the Marquis De Lafayette, and the colonist fighters couldn’t be happier. Most Americans today think of it as the end of the war and the beginning of freedom from the crown, but the actual war didn’t truly end until 1783. The truth is that while Cornwallis had the right to surrender his troops and army to a certain extent, he didn’t have the authority to permanently halt all conflict between the fledgling United States and Great Britain — that power lay with King George III.

The king was reluctant at first to completely cease hostilities and did not withdraw his men or order an end to the war. Until the Treaty of Paris in 1783 that fully marked the end of the war, the last British soldiers did not truly head out to vacate from the colonies, and even then, news traveled very slowly back in the day. For this reason, there was a solid two years of fighting, especially in the early American South, between the British soldiers and the fledgling colonies. There were also lots of naval skirmishes as well, since the king had not yet called for his navy to cease hostilities against the colonies. The king did not wish to end the war at first, even though in the end it really was likely for the best at that point, because it had been such a colossal failure for Great Britain — for a time he even considering abdicating the throne over his incapability to keep the colonies under British rule.

10 Facts About the Mad Monk Grigori Rasputin

The Romanovs were the last imperial family in Russia, lead by Tsar Nicholas II and his wife, Tsarina Alexandra before the revolution in 1917. The Tsarina believed strongly in the supernatural, which lead her to hire a monk as her spiritual advisor. That monk was Grigori Rasputin.

It turns out that Rasputin was more than just a humble monk. He has been considered one of the most evil figures in history – and even possibly the devil incarnate.

10. He Was a Prodigy

Grigori Rasputin (pictured here with his children) grew up as a peasant in a small Siberian village called Pokrovskoye. His entire family was an illiterate farming family, and they had a reputation for being horse thieves.

As a child, Rasputin claimed to have healing powers, and he could also see into the future.

At that time in Russia, the occult was actually in fashion. So, Instead of burning him at the stake for witchcraft, these peasants in the village simply accepted that he actually had incredible healing powers. This allowed him to get away with swearing, stealing, drinking, sleeping around, and generally being a terrible person.

He got married, and had children, but at 28-years-old, he declared that he wanted to change his ways and become a monk. This meant abandoning his family in order to go on this spiritual quest. He began living in a monastery, but when he realized he did not actually want to be a Russian Orthodox priest, he abruptly decided to leave and walk home, wandering around the woods of Siberia.

Keep in mind that the Siberian forest is no joke. It’s filled with wolves, tigers, bears, vipers, and wolverines. When he finally came back to his village, people could see that he was a totally changed man. He now had a long beard, and his eyes stared on forever, and he claimed that his spiritual power had intensified.

9. He Joined a Sex Cult

His family and friends knew that something had definitely changed about Rasputin while he was in the forest, which is why most people believe he joined an outlawed cult called the Khlysts. They were an offshoot of the Russian Orthodox Church that believed that they could only achieve salvation through committing sins. They would dance until they felt drunk on the Holy Spirit, and immediately followed this feeling of ecstasy by having a massive orgy. As you might imagine, the Khylsts were quite a popular underground group that a lot of Siberians wanted to join… because, well, it was probably the most interesting thing going on for these peasant potato farmers.

When Rasputin returned to his home village, he began his own cult, and continued to have sex with his congregation. If you’re wondering why so many women in the village would have been willing to join this cult and cheat on their husbands, he was known for more than just his magic abilities. After he died, they preserved his penis, because it had a reputation of its own. We’re not going to show a picture of it, but let’s just say it’s abnormally large.

Even some lady members of the aristocracy began to travel far and wide to join his group for the opportunity to sin with this popular monk. He earned quite a reputation for himself that spanned across all of Russia.

8. He Was A Miraculous Healer

At 34-years-old, Rasputin decided that he was done preaching to a small-town audience, and he wanted to move to the capital city of St. Petersburg. He claimed that he had a vision from the Virgin Mary, who told him to go to the city because the royal family needed his help.

Tsarina Alexandra needed to produce a male heir to the Romanov family, but for the longest time, she was only giving birth to daughters. She was very superstitious and believed in the occult, so she consulted several mystics to help her give birth to a boy. Unfortunately, her son, Alexi, was born with hemophilia. This is a disease that prevents blood from clotting, so if he were to ever get cut, the injury would never stop bleeding.

When Rasputin was introduced to the Romanovs, their son’s illness was kept a secret. He asked if he could pray over the boy, and advised them to keep doctors away. When Alexi actually began to get better, the boy’s parents were stunned.

Modern-day theorists believe that the reason why Alexi was healed was not because of magical powers, but because Rasputin refused to allow Alexi to take aspirin. At the time, aspirin was prescribed by doctors as a wonder drug, but it was actually making the boy’s hemophilia much worse. Even though Rasputin was illiterate, he did know a thing or two about healing.

7. He Smelled Terrible

According to testimonies from people who met Rasputin, he never bothered to bathe. Pieces of food were often seen hanging in his beard. He claimed that he went six months wearing the same underwear. A French ambassador visiting Russia compared his body odor to a goat. This makes it all the more repugnant that he continued having sex with everything that moved. Apparently, they saw his disheveled appearance as charming, and no one seemed to mind his complete lack of personal hygiene.

Apparently, the quality that drove women mad were his eyes that apparently burned into your soul. This was so strong, that some believed that he had the ability to hypnotize people into doing his bidding with his eyes. He grew rich from the money and favors he got by healing wealthy Russians, but he also advertised that he would accept payment in the form of kisses… which must have been difficult, considering that he never brushed his teeth.

6. He Was The Imperial Puppet Master

After healing Alexi, he told Nicholas and Alexandra that without him, their son would die. Since he was the sole heir to the throne, they felt that they had no choice but to accept Rasputin’s demands. There are rumors that he was allowed to sleep with the Tsarina as much as he wanted, and he had access to their daughters, as well. He started to call Nicholas and Alexandra “Papa” and “Mama,” as if he was part of the family. He gave advice about what the family should do, based on his visions that he claimed were from God. Every time anyone did something that displeased Rasputin, he would tell the Empress, and get them in trouble.

Then, of course, there were his hypnotizing eyes. Some people believed that he had the ability to trick anyone into doing his bidding just by staring at them, and that he could convince anyone to do almost anything. Rasputin had all the makings of a successful cult leader, and he used his charisma to slowly but surely manipulate everyone around him to gain unlimited power over the Russian royal family.

5. He Had Devout Disciples

Rasputin formed a fanbase of women who were happy to show up to his apartment to listen to him speak. He wasn’t just satisfied with his many female followers, either. Secret police were sent on his tail, and they recorded that he hired prostitutes multiple times a day in-between appointments.

One of the most tragic stories of his devout followers was a beautiful woman named Olga Lokhtina. She originally visited Rasputin for an excruciatingly painful intestinal neurasthenia. After he healed her, she became convinced that he was the second coming of Christ, and she wanted to be one of his disciples. She left her wealthy husband and children behind in order to move into Rasputin’s apartment. This, of course, became a public scandal. It was reported in the newspapers, and the police monitored the situation closely. Lokhtina demanded that anyone who visited Rasputin should address him as “God.” The longer she lived with him, the more she went insane. She was eventually sent to a mental institution.

4. He Was Working With The Devil

If you don’t think taking advantage of women was evil enough, don’t worry. It gets worse. In his journals, Rasputin wrote that he was in an ongoing inner battle with the Devil. He would purposely seek out sinful situations in order to fight off the evil he could feel building up inside him. He would take women into bath houses and perform a so-called ritual where he claimed the Devil possessed him into beating prostitutes. Immediately after purging this sin, he would have sex with them.

He claimed that he could actually see the Devil standing right in front of him. Multiple people witnessed him screaming to himself in the streets at this invisible figure. Two of the head priests in St. Petersburg cornered Rasputin and tried to give him an intervention. One of the bishops, a man named Hermogen, actually called him out for hurting so many women. He grabbed Rasputin’s penis and screamed that he was the Antichrist. Then, they proceeded to beat him with a huge crucifix. Of course, Rasputin ran and told the Tsarina about what had happened, so those priests were banished from St. Petersburg.

3. He Was Hated By Everyone… Including Himself

By now, it shouldn’t be surprising to learn that not everyone was drinking Rasputin’s Kool-Aid. During the years he served as the royal advisor, he earned a lot of enemies. Plenty of men were unhappy with the fact that he went around sleeping with nearly every woman in Russia and claiming to be Jesus. While Tsar Nicholas II was battling alongside his soldiers during World War I, Rasputin began to advise Alexandra on her decisions as Tsarina, and even appointed his friends into positions in the government. It didn’t take long for everyone to realize that he was making all of the decisions for her.

Newspapers printed rude political cartoons of Rasputin and the Tsarina having an affair. Empress Alexandra was born in Germany, and she was Queen Victoria’s granddaughter. Since she was not born in Russia, this gave people a reason to doubt that she truly cared about the country’s well-being. While people were dying and starving to death during the war, Rasputin continued to go out and live a lavish lifestyle. Politicians called him a devil, and used him as an example of everything that was wrong with imperial Russia.

Rasputin knew that people wanted him dead. He warned Tsarina Alexandra that if anyone with Romanov blood were responsible for his death, he would put a curse on their family that would ensure their death within two years.

2. He Was Impossible To Kill

Since Rasputin had so many enemies, there were assassination attempts on his life on more than one occasion. The first time someone tried to kill him was a priest named Illiador, who believed that Rasputin was the devil incarnate. He found a prostitute who had been abused and had her nose cut off named Khioniya Guseva and paid her to kill Rasputin. They waited until he was visiting his home in Siberia, and did not have the royal guard around to protect him. Guseva stabbed him with a knife in the stomach, and even went as far as to pull the intestines out of his body. Somehow, he survived this attack. While he was in the hospital, Russia entered World War I. Rasputin wrote to Nicholas II to try and stop the fighting, claiming that he had visions of the country’s demise. He wrote to the Tsar,  “we will all drown in blood.”

The Empress was trying to keep her promise that no one in the Romanov family would be responsible for his death, but her nephew-in-law, Felix Yusupov, plotted to kill Rasputin before he could ruin the whole country. His plan was to lure Rasputin with an offer he couldn’t refuse. He claimed that his gorgeous wife, Irina, was a nymphomaniac, and needed his healing touch to cure her sex addiction.

According to Yusupov, he staged a party at his home and invited Rasputin over for dinner. He laced all of his food and drink with cyanide. After hours of consuming enough poison to take down a herd of elephants, Yusupov got tired of waiting. He pulled out a gun and shot Rasputin in the heart.

1. He Rose From the Dead

In the 1997 Dreamworks animated movie Anastasia, Rasputin channels his demon powers to rise from the dead to make sure every last member of the Romanov family dies. While this might seem ridiculous to include a zombie in a story inspired by history, that is actually not too far off from what really happened.

According to witnesses, Yusupov and his friends celebrated Rasputin’s death after poisoning and shooting him in the chest. He seemed to be dead, but Yusupov felt paranoid, so he went to check on Rasputin’s body… and he opened his eyes. Rasputin began to run into the courtyard. This time, Rasputin was shot multiple times, including a shot to the head, so there was no chance of survival. Then, the men beat him with metal rods for good measure, and tied up his body in a large bag and tossed him into the freezing cold river. Even after all of this, the autopsy revealed that there was water in his lungs… which meant he was breathing, even after being shot in the head. Of course, critics believe that Yusupov exaggerated this story.

The curse that he put upon the Romanov family really did come true. During the Communist revolution, all of them were rounded up and murdered – even the children. People who loved the royal family had hoped that at least one of the children survived… but that’s a story for another day.

10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Mammoths

Mammoths are amongst the most iconic of beasts. The huge mammals roamed the Earth for millions of years, before finally slipping into the oblivion of extinction just a few thousand years ago.

Now, however, scientists believe we may have the tools to bring them back from the dead. Almost perfectly preserved specimens retrieved from the icy Siberian tundra have revealed their secrets. Their entire genetic code has been cracked. It might just possible for a mammoth embryo to be brought to term in an Asian elephant surrogate mother, or perhaps even in an artificial womb.

With mammoths perhaps on the brink of an unprecedented comeback, here are 10 things you probably don’t know about the prehistoric animals.

10. Mammoth Remains led to an Important Scientific Breakthrough

The first mammoth remains were dug up in 1728, more than a hundred years before the discovery of dinosaurs. Charles Darwin’s Theory of Evolution didn’t yet exist, and people’s understanding of the world still tended to be based largely on religious texts. As such, it was widely believed that all animals had existed in their current form unchanged since the time of the Garden of Eden. God didn’t make mistakes, so it seemed implausible that he’d allow one of his creations to disappear from the face of the Earth.

Increasingly frequent finds of mammoth remains challenged this belief.

Some scientists suggested the giant bones being unearthed must belong to African elephants. Remains that were discovered in Italy were explained away as belonging to one of the war elephants that Hannibal Barca took across the Alps in his war with ancient Rome. It was more problematic to explain just what African elephants would have been doing wandering around Northern Europe and Siberia, where many of the bones were being discovered.

The question was eventually settled by a French scientist named Georges Cuvier. In 1796 he published a paper in which he demonstrated that mammoth teeth and bones were distinct from those of existing elephants. By 1812 Cuvier had identified 49 different species of extinct animals. However, it was the giant mammoths that captured the public’s imagination and helped prove extinction to be a scientific fact.

9. Early Humans Killed off the Mammoths

Mammoths were one of evolutions success stories. Their remains have been found in every continent except South America and Australia. They walked the Earth for six-million years, before finally going the same way as 99.9 percent of all the species that have ever existed and succumbing to extinction.

Scientific analysis has revealed that mammoth populations began to decline sharply around 12,000 years ago. This ties in neatly with the end of the last ice age and supports the idea that climate change drove the mammoths to extinction. As their habitat warmed, they were simply unable to adapt to the changes.

One problem with this theory is that mammoths had survived several warm periods before. This suggests that they might have been expected to make it through again. The difference was that they were being hunted by humans for meat and ivory.

A study conducted by the University of Exeter in England found a close relationship between the extinction of large animals such as mammoths and the known patterns of human migration. This suggests that humans rather than climate may well have been the decisive factor in bringing about the end of the age of the mammoths.

8. The Last Woolly Mammoths Didn’t Look Like You’d Think

Frozen throughout much of the year and located in the Arctic Ocean around 100 miles north of the Siberian mainland, the harsh environment of Wrangel Island is home to polar bears, walruses, and arctic fox. It was also the site of the woolly mammoths’ last stand.

It had been believed that mammoths went extinct around 10,000 years ago. We now know that a small, isolated population of the animals survived on Wrangel Island for hundreds of generations. As late as 2000 BC, at a time when humans were advanced enough to be building giant pyramids and stone palaces, the last of the mammoths still walked the earth.

By comparing the genetic sequence of a mammoth that lived 45,000 years ago with that of a far more modern Wrangel Island mammoth, scientists discovered that the last of the mammoths were not a picture of health.

Thousands of years of interbreeding had left the animals struggling with a host of genetic problems. By far the most striking of these would have been a defect that caused their coats to turn a translucent white color and lose their insulating properties. The last of the mammoths would have looked very different to how we had always pictured them.  

7. The Saint Paul Island Mammoths Died a Horrible Death

The Woolly mammoths of Wrangel Island weren’t the only ones of their kind to temporarily escape the extinction of their species. Another lonely group of a few hundred animals survived, cut off from the mainland on Saint Paul Island off the coast of Alaska.

No human set foot on Saint Paul Island until as late as 1787, so these Woolly mammoths were safe from hunters. However, while their isolation saved them for thousands of years, eventually it brought about their downfall.

When the lakes on which the mammoths relied for fresh water began to dry up, there was nothing left to drink and nowhere left to go. It’s likely that the unfortunate animals suffered a long, lingering death.

By analyzing lake sediment for mammoth DNA, scientists have been able to pinpoint the date of this catastrophe with remarkable accuracy. Some 5,650 years ago, with a margin for error of just one-hundred years either way, the Saint Paul Island mammoths were lost to the world forever.

6. Some Mammoths Weren’t Very Mammoth at All

The name mammoth has come to be synonymous with immense size. However, there were a few species of mammoth that didn’t at all live up to this stereotype. Most species of mammoths weren’t a great deal bigger than an African elephant, and a few were considerably smaller. The most diminutive of them all once lived on the Greek island of Crete, and at just one-meter tall a fully-grown adult was no bigger than a baby elephant. Even a human of average height would have towered over these tiny mammoths.

Crete’s extinct mammoths represent the most extreme known example of Foster’s rule, also sometimes referred to as the island effect. Where large mammals are trapped on a small island, they adapt to the restrictions on habitat and food by evolving to become progressively smaller. Curiously enough the exact opposite applies to smaller mammals such as rats and rabbits, which tend to adapt to island life by evolving to become considerably larger than their mainland relatives.

5. Woolly Mammoth Tusks are Like Tree Trunks (sort of)

Woolly mammoths are perhaps the most visually striking and iconic of all mammoths. They stood more than three-meters tall at the shoulder, weighed in at a hefty 6 tons, and were covered in a thick coat of brown hair that covered their entire body.

Their tusks, which were used for foraging through snow in search of food, could grow as large as three-meters long and weigh 91 kilograms. The tusk of an average male African elephant, by way of comparison, is a much more modest two-meters in length.

It isn’t just their size that marks woolly mammoth tusks out as remarkable. A mammoth’s tusks continued to grow throughout the animal’s life. As they did so they left daily growth rings. In much the same way as it’s possible to determine the age of a tree by counting the rings in its trunk, scientists can slice through woolly mammoth tusks and count the rings to determine precisely how old the creature was when it died. As the female animals’ tusks grew more slowly when they were pregnant, it’s even possible for researchers to determine how many offspring an individual mammoth gave birth to.

4. The Great American Incognitum

In the late 18th century a Frenchman named George de Buffon was one of the most famous and influential scientists in the world. He had never set foot on American soil, but that didn’t prevent him publishing his Theory of American Degeneracy.

Buffon insisted that American soil was less fertile, its people inferior, and its animals smaller, weaker, and less impressive than those found in the old world.

The Americans were outraged. Thomas Jefferson, the third President of the United States, so much so that he had a huge bull moose shot, shipped to Europe, and its by now somewhat decomposed carcass delivered to Buffon’s doorstep.

Meanwhile, in Philadelphia naturalists were piecing together the bones of a huge mammothlike creature, then known as the great American incognitum but now renamed the mastodon.

The recreation of the beast wasn’t perfect. For a time it was given claws that actually belonged to a giant sloth that had been unearthed nearby. A curious misconception that the beast would have been an agile predator led its tusks to be attached backwards. The theory was that it would have used them to skewer its prey to the ground.

Despite these mistakes, the completed reconstruction of the mastodon was an imposing sight. Thomas Jefferson became entranced with the animal, even funding an expedition that he hoped would locate live specimens in remote regions of America. As he helpfully pointed out to Buffon, the giant bones of the great American incognitum made a mockery of the idea that American animals were small, weak, and inferior.

3. Mammoth Hunting is Becoming Big Business

As the effects of climate change are felt and the Arctic permafrost begins to melt, huge numbers of woolly mammoths are being released from their icy tombs after thousands of years.

The abundance of new specimens to study mean that scientists now know more about the mammoths than almost any other extinct animal, but they’ve also attracted a new breed of mammoth hunters.

It’s estimated that there may be as many as 10 million mammoth carcasses waiting to be discovered in the Arctic. With just a single large tusk being worth around $35,000, there’s a huge amount of money to be made.

Many mammoth hunters operate illegally without a permit. However, mammoth tusks aren’t covered by the 1989 ban on ivory trade, so they can be sold legally on the open market.

Some of the more optimistic conservationists have suggested the increasing availability of mammoth ivory might lead to a reduction in poaching of elephants. So far this hasn’t happened, and the trade of mammoth tusks is often used as a front for trafficking illegal elephant ivory.

2. Mammoths Could Combat Climate Change

The melting permafrost isn’t just revealing mammoths; it’s also allowing huge amounts of carbon to be released from the ground into the atmosphere. This is potentially very bad news indeed. As carbon is released, the rate at which the permafrost melts will increase, which will in turn release even more carbon.

This feedback loop is potentially catastrophic for the future of humanity. One of the more outlandish suggestions is that the reintroduction of woolly mammoths to Siberia could mitigate the damage and help combat climate change.

The blanket of snow that lies over Siberia for much of the year actually serves to trap in warmth. With mammoths trampling around and digging through the snow in search of food, the suggestion is that they would expose the permafrost to the much colder air, and hopefully slow down the rate at which it is melting.

For this plan to work there would need to be hundreds, or perhaps even thousands of mammoths. This represents a major stumbling block since we don’t currently have any. However, a team of Harvard University scientists headed by George Church believe they are on the brink of reviving the woolly mammoth.

1. Rise of the Mammophants

Even if Dr. George Church and his team are successful, the animals they create wouldn’t strictly speaking be pure mammoth. It would be more accurate to describe them as mammoth/elephant hybrids, or mammophants.

The woolly mammoths’ closest living relative is the Asian rather than the African elephant. They set off on different branches of their family tree as much as 6 million years ago, but it’s recently been discovered that their genomes are far more similar than anybody had expected. On a genetic level the Asian elephant is 99.6% identical to a woolly mammoth. This makes them far more alike than humans are to chimpanzees, which are believed to share 96% of their DNA.

This similarity has allowed Church’s team to use the Asian elephant as a genetic template. Sophisticated DNA editing software allows them to copy and paste mammoth DNA in. If Church is right, then he will be able to create an animal that would be almost identical to a woolly mammoth, both in appearance and genetics, and equipped to survive freezing Siberian winters.

Church argues that his project could help combat climate change, learn more about genetic diseases, and preserve endangered Asian elephants – albeit in an unfamiliar genetically altered state. This has failed to dispel the unease many have expressed over the ethics of the project.

10 Books and Movies That Were Inspired by Dreams

Dreams are a combination of pictures and stories that develop in our minds while we sleep. Dreams can be about literally anything from something funny, to romantic, or even terrifying. While 95% of dreams are not usually remembered, it is believed that people dream anywhere from three to six times per night with each one lasting between five and twenty minutes.

While most dreams are never remembered, some people do recall specific details about them. And on a few rare occasions, people have been inspired by what they dreamed of. As a matter of fact, some great creations were developed from actual dreams. For example, the melody for the Beatles’ song “Yesterday was inspired by a dream. Paul McCartney woke up one morning with a tune stuck in his head that he didn’t recognize, so he composed the chords for it on the piano and it became the music for one of their most famous songs.

Another example is that of Edgar Allan Poe’s poetry. It has been said that many of his poems and short stories were inspired by the many nightmares he suffered from throughout his life.

There are also several famous books and movies that were inspired by actual dreams, 10 of which we’ll detail below… 

10. E.B. White’s Stuart Little

The beloved children’s story of a mouse named Stuart Little was inspired by a dream that E.B. White had in the 1920s. The anything-but-ordinary mouse was born into a family of humans in New York City and lived with his parents, his older brother George, and a cat named Snowbell. While White had the dream in the ’20s, it was only put into a novel in 1945.

While he was sleeping on a train, White dreamt of a little boy who looked and acted a lot like a mouse. He wrote a few episodes about the boy/mouse and put them away with the intent of sharing the stories one day with his nieces and nephews. But around twenty years later his story became a best-seller and even inspired the 1999 hit movie Stuart Little, which starred Michael J. Fox as the voice of the mouse.

9. Sophie’s Choice by William Styron

In the mid-1970s, William Styron was struggling to come up with ideas to write another book. That’s when he experienced a dream that would inspire him to write Sophie’s Choice. He described the dream as “a merging from the dream to a conscious vision and a memory of this girl named Sophie. And it was powerful because I lay there in bed with the abrupt knowledge that I was going to deal with this work of fiction.” His vision of Sophie was that of her “entering the hallway of this humble boarding house in Flatbush with a book under her arm, looking very beautiful in the middle of summer with a soft of summer dress on and her arm bared and the tattoo visible.”

He felt like he had to write the Holocaust-themed story and in 1982 an acclaimed movie was made starring Meryl Streep as Sophie.

8. Christopher Nolan’s Inception

The 2010 psychological thriller Inception, a movie that is itself about dreams, was inspired by actual dreams. Director Christopher Nolan took the idea from his own lucid dreams for his seventh feature film. The film stars Leonardo DiCaprio as a talented thief who is very skilled at stealing secrets from people while they are dreaming. This new job, however, requires him to plant an idea inside the mind of a man instead of stealing it.

Nolan claims that Inception was an elusive dream. He said “I wanted to do this for a very long time; it’s something I’ve thought about off and on since I was about 16.” He also mentioned that ever since he was a kid, he was fascinated by how he would wake up and then fall back into a lighter sleep but still know that he was dreaming, and even manage to examine the location of his dreams.

7. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a novel written in the 1800s by Robert Louis Stevenson (pictured above) and is about a man who has a split personality – the good Dr. Jekyll, and the terrible Mr. Hyde.

It is said that Stevenson was fascinated with split personality disorder but was unable to figure out how to put it into writing. However, one night he dreamt about Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde: “In the small hours of one morning… I was awakened by cries of horror from Louis,” his wife Fanny explained. “Thinking he had a nightmare, I awakened him. He said angrily ‘Why did you wake me? I was dreaming a fine bogey tale.’”

Stevenson was apparently sick with tuberculosis and under doctor’s order to rest when he wrote the novel. He produced the first draft of 30,000 words in between three to six days, followed by a second rewritten copy in just three more days. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde sold 40,000 copies in just six months, followed by over 250,000 copies in North America. His novel has also inspired several movies over the years.

6. Stephen King’s Dreamcatcher

In 1999, Stephen King was hit by a minivan when he was walking down a road in Maine. During the time that he was recovering from a shattered leg and a collapsed lung, he started to have vivid dreams, which inspired him to write his horror novel Dreamcatcher.

The novel is about four friends who reunite in the woods each year for their annual hunting trip. But one year a stranger ends up at their camp, all confused and muttering about lights in the sky. The friends are then faced with a terrifying creature from another world and need to figure out how to survive.

He was quoted telling the San Francisco Chronicle“The first really strong idea that occurred to me after the accident was four guys in a cabin in the woods. Then you introduce this one guy who staggers into the camp saying, ‘I don’t feel well,’ and he brings this awful hitchhiker with him. I dreamed a lot about that cabin and those guys in it.”

The novel was turned into a movie in 2003, which featured a who’s who of both on and off-camera talent, including Morgan Freeman and Lawrence Kasdan.

5. Stephen King’s Misery

Not surprisingly, Stephen King came up with the idea for his horror novel Misery from a nightmare. It is about a famous author who is rescued from a car crash by his number one fan. However, he soon realizes that the crazy fan has other ideas in store for him that include abuse and captivity.

King was quoted saying “Like the ideas for some of my other novels, that came to me in a dream. In fact, it happened when I was on Concord, flying over here, to Brown’s (hotel in England). I fell asleep on the plane and dreamt about a woman who held a writer prisoner and killed him, skinned him, fed the remains to her pig and bound his novel in human skin. I said to myself, ‘I have to write this story.’” And that’s exactly what he did. He wrote the first forty or fifty pages on the landing between the ground level and first floor of the hotel.

While his book was published in 1987, the movie Misery was released in 1990, starring James Caan and Kathy Bates.

4. Jason Mott’s The Returned

The Returned is a novel written by Jason Mott about an elderly couple who have a government agent show up at their home with their son. The only thing is, their son drowned fifty years ago on his eighth birthday. The boy looks and acts the same, but there’s no possible way that it could be their deceased son. Or could it?

In an interview with CNN, Mott described how the idea for the book came to him in a dream about his deceased mother. “In the summer of 2010, I had this dream that I came home from work one day and found my mother sitting at the kitchen table waiting for me.” He went on to say, “I came in and sat down with her, and we just talked about everything that had happened since her death.” He explained, “It was one of these really vivid dreams where you wake up and question whether it was real or not.”

He wrote a short story about a couple whose son returns from the dead and received a great response to it, so he continued writing it and a year later he had finished his manuscript which turned out to be a best-seller. It was later turned into a television series.

3. James Cameron’s Terminator

The 1984 hit movie The Terminator starred Arnold Schwarzenegger as a futuristic cyborg sent back in time to assassinate a woman whose unborn son will lead humans in a war against machines.

Director/writer James Cameron was staying at a hotel in Rome while working on Piranha II: The Spawning when a horrible flu and high fever hit him, causing him to have nightmares. In fact, he dreamt of a chrome torso appearing from an explosion and dragging itself with kitchen knives across the floor right at him.

He recalled when he came up with the idea for Terminator, “I was sick at the time. I had a high fever. I was just lying on the bed thinking and came up with all this bizarre imagery… I think also had the idea that because I was in a foreign city by myself and I felt very dissociated from humanity in general, it was very easy to project myself into these two characters from the future who were out of sync, out of time, out of place.”

2. Stephenie Meyer’s Twilight

Twilight is the story of a modern day love triangle between a vampire, a werewolf, and a human. The idea for the book came to author Stephenie Meyer in a dream. She explained her dream by saying “It was two people in kind of a little circular meadow with a really bright sunlight, and one of them was a beautiful, sparkly boy and one was just a girl who was human and normal, and they were having this conversation. The boy was a vampire, which is so bizarre that I’d be dreaming about vampires, and he was trying to explain to her how much he cared about her and yet at the same time how much he wanted to kill her.”

Prior to being a best-selling author, Meyer was a stay-at-home mother who was an avid reader but was never a writer. At first, she documented the dream so that she would remember it with no expectation of making it into a novel. But after nine rejections, her dream became a reality and her story is now known throughout the world by her Twilight books and movies.

1. Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein

In 1816, Mary Godwin and her fiancé, Percy Shelley, visited Lord Byron’s residence in Switzerland. During stormy nights, Lord Byron, who was a poet, would get his guests to read ghost stories to each other. One night, he asked his guests to write down their own horror stories.

After the request, this is what Mary claimed happened to her: “When I place my head upon my pillow, I did not sleep, nor could I be said to think… I saw – with shut eyes, but acute mental vision – I saw the pale student of unhallowed arts kneeling beside the thing he had put together. I saw the hideous phantasm of a man stretched out, and then, on the working of some power engine, show signs of life, and stir with an uneasy, half-vital motion.” She described in great detail the dream that frightened her that night – the dream that inspired her famous novel, Frankenstein.

10 Firsts in America’s Involvement in World War I

World War I was a global battle that lasted from July 28, 1914, to November 11, 1918. Tens of millions of servicemen from over 30 countries fought on battlegrounds all over the world. Many methods of combat were pioneered in this bloodbath, which ended up killing 16 million people. Technology-wise, it was the first war to see large scale use of poisonous gas, airplanes, and tanks. Also, artillery technology and targeting was perfected to rain death on thousands of soldiers. America tried to stay out of it for years but was pulled in, declaring war against Germany on April 6, 1917. Here are 10 historic firsts in America’s involvement in World War I…

10.  First Soldiers to Die in a WWI Battle

In late 1917, the Americans took over a portion of the front lines near Artois, France. That same year, on November 3, the Germans launched an early morning raid on US lines. When the dust cleared eleven Americans were taken Prisoner of War, and three Americans were found dead. They were Corporal James Gresham of Kentucky, Private Merle Hay of Iowa, and Private Thomas Enright of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. In the chaos of the German attack, who died first was lost in the fog of war, so the three are seen as the first US deaths of the war.

Seven months later, Michigan’s Private Joseph William Guyton was the first to die in Germany on May 24, 1918. President Harding later honored his grave by saying, “In the name of the republic, I bestow this tribute on the casket of the first soldier who perished on the soil of the enemy.” These men were the first Americans soldiers to die in WWI, but were they the first Americans to die in combat?

Many Americans balked at their nation’s initial neutral stance. Some due to their heritage, beliefs, or sense of adventure, joined the militaries of other nations that were involved in the fighting. Some are seen as “technical” Americans. For example, Harold Chapin was born in Brooklyn, New York (thus an American citizen) but moved to England and became a hugely successful actor before he died during the Battle of Loos on September, 26 1915. He viewed himself as “an English actor, and English playwright, and died as a British soldier.” According to writer Gary Ward in VFW Magazine, the official publication of the US Veterans of Foreign Wars, the earliest American that died as a soldier in WWI combat was Edward Mandell Stone, the son of a Chicago industrialist. Serving with the French Foreign Legion, Stone was mortally wounded by German shellfire and died on February 27, 1915.

The first American to kill a German after formally entering the front line trenches was Sergeant Major Herbert Sleigh. Using WWI sniper technology the US media claimed he was able to shoot a German from 1,400 yards.

The first servicewomen to die in the war were Nurses Edith Ayres and Helen Wood, who both were accidentally killed after a deck gun exploded on May 20, 1917, aboard the USS Mongolia. The ship was on its way to France.

9. First WWI Naval Death

Osmond Kelly Ingram was just 16-years-old when he joined the US Navy on November 24, 1903. When America joined the war, his ship, the destroyer USS Cassin, was assigned to escort American troop convoys to ports in England and France. On October 15, 1917, the US destroyer encountered the Imperial German U-boat SM U-61 off the coast of Ireland. The Cassin immediately pursued the sub but it somehow was able to let loose a torpedo that breached the water twice. Each time it came to the surface its path curved and by dumb luck slammed straight into the Cassin.

While on the deck of the USS Cassin, Gunner’s Mate First Class Osmond Ingram predicted where the torpedo would hit and to his great horror saw that it would ignite some depth charges on the destroyer’s deck. Valiantly, he started to throw the charges overboard, but before he could get them all the torpedo struck, igniting the remaining depth charges and killing him instantly. He was the first US Naval fatality of WWI. For his actions, he was posthumously awarded the Medal of Honor.

8. First Artillery Salvo of WWI

Machine guns in World War One were the cause of death of many charging soldiers, but most battlefield casualties were caused by developments and innovations of WWI artillery. Some 60 percent of all casualties were caused by artillery fire. In 1917, when American forces landed in French ports, they did so with little to no artillery of their own. The French stepped up and supplied the Yankees with thousands of artillery and mortar pieces as well as the ammunition to fire them.

When the US forces moved to the front they brought these guns to bear against the Germans. At  6:30 AM October 23, 1917, Sergeant Alexander Arch of Battery “C” 6th FA Regiment, 1st FA Brigade, American 1st Division, shouted “fire” to the crew manning the French 75mm field gun. This was America’s first artillery salvo of WWI.

7. First Major Battle: Battle of Cantigny

The first US military unit to arrive in Europe was the 1st Aeronautical Detachment, under Kenneth Whiting, on June 5, 1917. The Americans entered the front line trenches in small groups by the winter of the same year. It took until the spring of 1918 to have enough men to enable the Americans to launch a battle of their own. Men from the famed “Big Red One,” the US 1st Division, was selected to push the German Eighteenth Army out of the village of Cantigny in France. Among those fighting was the 5th Field Artillery Regiment, which is the oldest American military unit on continuous active duty, and Major Theodore Roosevelt, Jr the oldest son of future President Theodore Roosevelt and First Lady Edith Roosevelt.

At 06:45 [H Hour] on May 28, 1918, around 4,000 Americans, helped by French manned artillery, tanks, and planes, climbed out of the front lines trenches and moved toward the German trenches. The Americans and the French tanks carefully followed a deadly rolling artillery barrage that advanced 100 meters every two minutes. They quickly captured the village and spent the rest of the battle fighting off German counterattacks. When the dust settled the advance cost 1,603 American casualties that included those Wounded in Action, Missing in Action, taken Prisoner and 199 soldiers Killed in Action. The Battle of Cantigny was the first major American battle of WWI.

6. First Air Kill

Airplanes were pioneered by the Wright brothers in America starting in 1903. Just over a decade later, aviation technology had exploded and in WWI control of the skies became a deadly goal fought over by all parties. The first dogfight occurred just days into the war when on August 15, 1914, an Austro-Hungarian and a Serbian pilot fired pistols at each other. Soon the skies became just as bloody as the ground.

Like Americans who joined other armies, pilots sought to join the Air Forces of other nations. In 1916 American pilots formed one such squad, Lafayette Escadrille, for the French Air Service. At its peak, there were 38 Americans in the squadron. One of these pilots was Newport, Tennessee born Kiffin Rockwell (pictured above). On May 18, 1916, he downed a German two-man observational plane over the Alsace battlefield. He became the first American of the Lafayette Escadrille to shoot down an enemy plane. Later in the year another American member of Lafayette Escadrille, Gervais Raoul Lufbery, became the first American ACE pilot when he shot down the required fifth German plane on October 12, 1916.

America finally joined the war in 1917. While waiting for its Air Force to become active over the slaughterhouse of the Western Front, American airmen would hitch rides on French planes. One US flyer, Stephen W. Thompson, participated as a gunner-bombardier on a French Air Service plane. While this squadron was returning from a bombing raid over Saarbrücken, Germany he became the first member of the United States military to shoot down an enemy aircraft when he downed a German plane on February 5, 1918.

5. First Time Germany Attacks the Atlantic Commerce

When the First World War started the British Royal Navy ruled the waves, keeping the Imperial German Navy boxed up in German-controlled ports. Utilizing U-boats, the Germans hoped to reduce the British numerical advantage. On September 5, 1914, Imperial German U-boat SM U-21 became the first to sink a ship, HMS Pathfinder, by a locomotive torpedo. Armed naval ships remained difficult targets so the Germans switched to the lightly armed civilian ships that were supporting the Allied war effort. On October 20, 1914, SS Glitra became the first British merchant vessel sunk after it was boarded and scuttled by the crew of Imperial German sub SM U-17. As the war dragged on the Germans thought they could strangle Allied commerce by a concentrated U-boat campaign.

The SS Prinz Eitel Friedrich was a German passenger liner that, in the summer of 1914 on the outbreak of war, was operating in China. She was converted into an Imperial German Raider and spent months plying the seas, attacking allied shipping. Off Brazil on January 27, 1915, it encountered the American four-masted steel sail ship, the William P. Frye. The Germans boarded the ship and ordered the US crew to throw its cargo overboard. When they took too long the Germans took the crew prisoner and sank the ship the next day. It was the first American ship lost in the war. At the time America was a neutral state and demanded $228,059.54 in damages ($ 5.4 million in 2017).

The first American death to German commerce raids occurred almost exactly two months later.  On March 28, 1915, SM U-28 fired at the British steamship RMS Falaba. The ship sank quickly, killing 104 people. Among those dead was one American passenger, Leon Chester Thrasher, a 31-year-old mining engineer from Massachusetts. His death caused outrage back in the states that would only be made worse when Imperial German U-boat SM U-20 sank the HMS Lusitania on May 7, 1915, killing 1,198 souls. Out of the 139 US citizens on board, 128 lost their lives.

4. First Naval Victory

By the time the Americans entered the war the German surface fleet was bottled up in its European harbors. Therefore the American Navy’s focus was protecting the lumbering cargo vessels that kept the Allies supplied. It was while shepherding a merchant convoy off the coast of Ireland that the Americans achieved their first Naval victory.

On November 17, 1917, the destroyers USS Fanning and USS Nicholson were keeping one eye on the eight merchant ships they were escorting, and the other on the lookout for any subs. At 16:10 Coxswain Daniel David Loomis spotted the periscope of Imperial German Sub SM U-58 line up to fire a torpedo at one of the cargo ships. The two destroyers immediately engaged the U-boat, firing depth charges and their guns when the sub was forced to the surface. The attack disabled the sub, forcing Kapitänleutnant Gustav Amberger to surrender. The USS Fanning took onboard the crew as prisoners of war as well as two U-boat crew that were killed in action. This engagement was also the first time the US Navy had sunk a submarine.

Earlier the US Navy experienced a different kind of first when Imperial German submarine SM UC-71 sank the first American Naval ship of the war, a converted yacht, USS Alcedo on November 5, 1917. Over a month later, German SM U-53 sank the US Naval destroyer USS Jacob Jones on December 6, 1917. The ship sank in minutes and of its complement of around 100 men, 66 were killed. Kapitänleutnant Hans Rose of the German sub surfaced and took on two of the most severely wounded American survivors, and radioed the American Navy about where to find the rest before disappearing under the waves.

3. First Women to Serve

Before and after WWI, women were fighting for an equal role in society. Many saw the first step being the right to vote. The first state to allow women to vote was Wyoming in 1889 and when it joined the United States a year later it kept the women’s vote, and was thus the first US state to allow its female citizens to vote. In the 1916 election, intense anti-war advocate Jeannette Pickering Rankin became the first woman to hold federal office in the United States when she was elected to Congress. She voted against joining World War I and after the bombing of Pearl Harbor was the only member of Congress to vote “NO” to joining WWII.

Women played a valuable part in World War I. On March 17, 1917, Loretta Perfectus Walsh became the “first woman to enlist on active duty in the U.S. Navy. She was the first Yeoman F, or ‘Yeomanette,’ to enlist in World War I … In addition, she was the first female chief.”

2. First American Red Cross Staff

When the war started America declared itself neutral, but its people wanted to help those impacted by the war. A few weeks into the war the American Red Cross chartered the SS Hamburg, a German ocean liner that was held in New York. It was renamed the SS Red Cross and on September 13, 1914, set off to Europe with a cargo of 30 doctors, 125 nurses, and thousands of tons of medical supplies.

It was the American Red Cross’s first foray into the European conflict. Starting in 1914, and for the next three years of the war, the Nobel Peace Prize wasn’t awarded to anyone. Then in the winter of 1917, the Nobel committee decided to grant it to the International Committee of the Red Cross for its efforts to relieve those suffering during the war.

1. First Invasion of Russia

Fighting the war for over three years exhausted Russia and by 1917 the nation was coming apart at the seams. Military defeats across the Eastern Front had demoralized the Russian military, while on the homefront its population faced famine. Things came to a head when, in the winter of 1917, Lenin and the Communists overthrew the government. After some brutal concessions, Germany and Red Russia ended hostilities, allowing Lenin to focus on crushing anti-revolutionary forces throughout Russia.

The Western allies were horrified that a Communist government had taken over Russia and that Europe’s nations worn down by years of war might also succumb to the Red Menace. To counter this, allied nations sent military units into Russia to help anti-Communist forces. This is how the Americans found themselves in Russia.

While Germany and the Allies slaughtered each other on the Western Front, America quietly sent US forces into Russia. On August 15, 1918, they landed at the Eastern Russian port of Vladivostok and focused on controlling the railway between Vladivostok and Nikolsk-Ussuriski. Another US force was sent to the north western Russian port of Arkhangelsk, known as the Polar Bear Expedition, landing on September 4, 1918. There they frequently battled Communist forces before withdrawing in the summer of 1919.

The Americans based in Eastern Russia lived miserable lives in a hostile environment for 19 months, well after WWI had ended on November 11, 1918. By the time the last American soldiers left Siberia on April 1, 1920, hundreds of them had died in Russia. The Communists would solidify their control of what would become the Soviet Union in the winter of 1922.

Jon Lucas covers WWI live, 100 years ago. You can follow the action on Twitter, Tumblr or Instagram

10 Interesting Facts About Ligers

Ligers are an interesting breed, to say the least. They are the hybrid offspring of a male lion and a female tiger, and only exist in captivity. Currently in the wild, lions and tigers share only one small patch of forest in western India as a common habitat, and thus, ligers haven’t been documented outside of zoos or animal shelters. The first mention of ligers dates back to at least as early as the late 18th century in India, with the term ‘liger’ first coined sometime before the 1930s. Here are some interesting facts about them – and no, they aren’t an animal made up by Napoleon Dynamite.

Read the full list!

10 Rare Psychological Delusions –

Paranoia is more or less mainstream these days, and not without justification. Thankfully, though, a great many fears remain baseless. Paranoid delusions like “someone has stolen my face,” or “everyone knows what I’m doing” are for the most part demonstrably false. They exist at the margins of clinical psychology, affecting only a small handful of patients, usually in conjunction with some other mental illness or head injury.

But for those suffering them, each of the ten delusions below are in fact absolute realities—in some cases confirmed over decades—and there’s no way to persuade patients otherwise. Many are even aware of how irrational they sound but continue to believe in them anyway. After all, as the old maxim goes, “just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you.”

10. Erotomania

Erotomania (or Clérambault’s Syndrome, phantom lover syndrome, psychotic erotic transference, or simply amor insanus) afflicts women far more than it does men. It involves the delusion that someone, usually of a higher social standing, like a celebrity, is somehow in love with the patient—despite never having met them in many cases. Often, this alleged affection is “communicated” to the patient by way of subtle signals or messages—on TV, for instance, or via telepathy, or encoded in certain states’ license plates.    

One young woman believed she’d actually given birth to her secret admirer’s children, and that they were taken away by psychiatrists. She also believed the bond between her and her admirer (in this case a classmate she’d never really been close to) was so strong that the entire world was aware of it, including the president of the United States.

Generally, people with erotomania say they’re only attracted to their admirer because their admirer is so attracted to them. But they frequently get aggressive in their pursuit. One of the most famous cases is that of Robert Hoskins who, in 1995, stalked and threatened Madonna in the belief they were destined to marry. As is typical of erotomaniacs, his obsession persisted for many years despite numerous setbacks, including getting shot for trespassing and sentenced to ten years in jail.  

9. Capgras Delusion

Nobody really knows what causes Capgras delusion exactly, but it’s often associated with methamphetamine abuse, schizophrenia, and neurodegenerative diseases like Alzheimer’s. According to a Japanese psychiatry journal, it may even have something to do with the existence of parallel worlds.

Those who suffer from the delusion are convinced that people around them—usually their nearest and dearest and sometimes even pets—have been replaced by lookalike imposters. And it’s not all that rare as you’d think. Affecting a great many patients with dementia, it’s much better described as “uncommon.”

Capgras can also be related to head trauma. Following an almost deadly traffic accident, one patient emerged from a five-week coma accusing his parents of being frauds. Curiously, he was otherwise compos mentis, making an articulate case that the woman who made his breakfast was too good a cook to be his mother and the man who drove him around was too good a driver to be his dad.

Some people with Capgras think everyone around them has been replaced. One 39-year-old patient not only accused his entire family of being imposters, for example, but he also believed that the government was being run by duplicates of the President, the First Lady, and the senators. Later, in a bid to carry out “God’s work,” he shot and killed his father, wounded his nephew, and also wounded a stranger he presumed to be an evil accomplice. Another Capgras patient used a toy gun to hold up a newsreader live on air, forcing them to relay his beliefs to the public.  

8. Fregoli Delusion

Recently portrayed in the animated movie Anomalisa, the Fregoli delusion is in a way the polar opposite of Capgras. Instead of recognizing the face and not the person behind it, Fregoli sufferers recognize the person but not the face they’re “wearing.” In other words, they believe an apparent stranger (or group of strangers) is really someone they know in disguise.

Often, this conviction manifests as an unshakeable feeling of familiarity around people they’ve only just met. And while it may be episodic—sometimes lasting no more than a day—it tends to be extremely unpleasant to live through, fraught with wild paranoia and conspiratorial thinking.

“Betty,” for instance, became convinced that a former lover and his girlfriend were inhabiting her neighbors’ bodies and changing their appearance at will, all in a convoluted attempt, apparently, to keep her quiet about her own relationship with the man. Another patient, a schizophrenic, physically attacked his doctor, believing him to be the nurse who medicated him incorrectly on another night—supposedly in a scheme to hurt him.

Unlike the Capgras delusion (named for the psychiatrist who discovered it), the Fregoli delusion was named after an Italian actor, Leopold Fregoli, whose knack for rapidly changing his appearance was legendary. It is thought to be caused by brain injury—particularly to the right frontal and left temporoparietal regions—or levodopa (L-DOPA) treatment for Parkinson’s.

7. Intermetamorphosis

Intermetamorphosis as a delusion is comparable to Capgras and Fregoli, but with the crucial difference that strangers aren’t involved—either as the person misidentified or their alleged true identity. Instead, patients with this condition tend to mistake someone they know well for another person they know (or knew) well. Intermetamorphosis commonly presents itself alongside other mental disorders, and neurodegeneration in general.

One woman suffering from depression and paranoia, for example, believed her husband had transformed into their neighbor. He didn’t just take on this neighbor’s face and mannerisms, she said, he was also unable to repair a powercut despite being an electrician. The related delusion of reverse intermetamorphosis, meanwhile, afflicts people who believe that they themselves have transformed into another.

6. Syndrome of Subjective Doubles (SSD)

Many of us have probably entertained the notion that somewhere out there, going about their business, is an identical clone of ourselves. But while most of us might locate these hypothetical doppelgängers in an equally hypothetical parallel universe, many SSD sufferers think they’re living next door.

The discoverer of this condition, Greek psychiatrist George Nikos Christodoulou, related the case of a young woman who believed her neighbor was effectively stealing her identity—right down to the clothing, build, and even face. And when a doppelgänger is believed to have fully absorbed one’s personality, the result is depersonalization.

Patients have described the feeling of meeting their double as a sense of vague familiarity followed by mounting horror. Some are so traumatized by the experience of “being divided in two,” in fact, that they end up resorting to suicide, desperately hoping to reunite them as one.

Like many on this list, SSD tends to accompany other psychological disorders, including epilepsy, as well as other paranoid delusions. But doppelgängers have also been reported by otherwise healthy high altitude climbers, who very commonly encounter them on mountains.

5. Reduplicative Paramnesia

There are apparently doppelgängers for places too—at least according to reduplicative paramnesiacs. Such patients are typically convinced that their home, or another familiar place, has been cloned to another location.

So, for instance, they might believe the mental hospital they’re being treated at is somehow a duplicate of their house, or that their house is disguised as the hospital. One woman even complained, after being discharged, that “they” never returned all her furniture. Yet patients rarely feel more troubled than this. Indeed, the condition might sometimes serve as a comfort, as it likely does for wounded soldiers convinced their field hospital is in their hometown.

4. The Truman Show Delusion

While it’s hardly a delusion to think we’re being watched, few of us would say by TV. For some, however, the feeling of constant, televised surveillance is all too real—much like The Truman Show (or the more recent real-life version, Susunu! Denpa Shonen, in which a naked man was observed for a year).

Sufferers tend to believe they’re surrounded by hidden cameras and that a production crew is somehow controlling their fate, just like in the movie. Writer Kevin Hall actually believed he was on a show named after the movie, the “TrumanKev Show” as he called it. In one dramatic “episode,” he stole a truck and drove it around Tokyo, simply because the keys were on board—a sign, he presumed, the director had this in mind.

Another characteristic of the Truman Show delusion is the belief that everyone is involved—not just those making the programme and the millions at home watching, but also friends, family, and even strangers—all of them actors and extras following a script.

Oddly enough, one patient with the delusion actually worked on a reality TV show for real, gradually coming to believe that he was the one being broadcast. Like many sufferers, he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder and particularly manic episodes.

3. Cotard’s Syndrome

Some delusions have nothing whatsoever to do with other people and are characterized instead by horrific beliefs about one’s body. Sufferers of Cotard’s syndrome are a prime example, with some of the worst cases convinced that they’re dead—even to the point of being able to smell their own flesh rotting.

“Mademoiselle X.,” in 1880, was one of the first cases to come to French neurologist Jules Cotard’s attention and he called her condition le délire de négation (negation delirium). According to his notes, the 43-year-old woman claimed to be missing her vital organs and asked for her corpse to be burned. Strangely enough, though, despite giving up food, she wasn’t really all that concerned, because, in this state, she said, she was destined to “live forever.”

There’s often no way to rationally argue with these people either. In 2012, a Japanese doctor presented with such a patient pointed out the logical inconsistency that dead men cannot speak. In response, his patient simply agreed that his condition defied logic. And even after the delusion had passed, he remained adamant that it was true at the time, insisting he had somehow returned from the dead.

Cotard’s often arises from head injuries and serious accidents, which at least provide a basis for the belief. Sometimes, however, patients believe they’ve always been “dead,” as in the case of a Greek patient in 2003 who claimed he was born without a brain. Others combine the symptoms of Cotard’s with other psychological delusions, such as clinical lycanthropy. An Iranian man, for example, not only believed he was dead but also that he was a dog.  

2. Ekbom’s Syndrome

Not to be confused with Wittmaack-Ekbom or restless legs syndrome (though it may come up as a symptom), Ekbom’s syndrome is the belief that one is infested with insects. Sufferers usually see these on or under the skin and can feel them biting as well. Needless to say, it can rapidly get out of hand.

One patient felt compelled to change her mattress over and over again, as well as her entire wardrobe, all to no avail. And as her delusion worsened, she came to believe that her insides were infested as well, finding bits of bugs even in her feces and spit. Many sufferers, having already scratched their flesh raw, take to peeling the scabs off to “let the bugs out.”

Although technically “rare” (affecting less than 1 in 1,500 people in the US), it is estimated that more than 100,000 Americans suffer from Ekbom’s syndrome. And cases can sometimes span decades, occasionally plaguing sufferers right up until the day that they die. Often, all it takes is the discovery of one or two real bugs around the house to validate and exacerbate the delusion.

Worse still, like any real infestation, Ekbom’s is typically contagious. Before long, others in the household will start complaining of similar symptoms.

1. Thought Insertion


Having thoughts that are not one’s own or hearing voices inside of one’s head are symptoms commonly associated with schizophrenia. But they’re also a growing concern among so-called targeted individuals (TIs); that is, people who strongly believe the government is watching them (more than the average person, anyway). Thoughts are “transmitted” to them, many say, via “microchip implants” and tend to be aggressive in nature—encouraging targets to kill their families, for example, or threatening the targets themselves.

But these thoughts can also be dull or nonsensical; what bothers sufferers the most is the continual, invasive interruption. Sometimes things get so bad that they’ll go to any lengths to get rid of the implants—similar to the desperate picking and scratching of Ekbom’s. One woman managed to find a surgeon willing to gouge out part of her finger, supposedly to remove illegally implanted nanotech.  Even so, she continued to live a life on the run, shielding her brain from electromagnetic radiation by wearing a literal tin foil hat, or more often a lead balaclava.

Obviously this is a tricky delusion to deal with—and that’s assuming it’s a delusion in the first place (after all, we can’t listen in on thoughts; and if we could, we could feasibly plant them). Treatments are non-specific, limited to the underlying cause if it can be found. Otherwise, patients might come up with their own ways of coping. To reclaim ownership over their thoughts, for example, some schizophrenics take to verbalizing those that seem alien. Of course, given the frequency, not to mention the nature, of some of these thoughts, it’s hardly an ideal solution.

10 Crazy Attempts at Immortality Throughout History

The average person has real fears they have to deal with every day, or at least every week, about their job, their bills, their family, and everything else going on in their lives. These people tend to think very little about the ultimate fate of death that awaits all living things, as they have very little time for that kind of frivolous imagining of something that is inevitable regardless. However, those with a lot of money and time on their hands tend to get a sort of existential ennui about the end of their own existence, and some of them go to absolutely ludicrous lengths in an attempt to stave off that ultimate checkout.

10. People Want To Have Themselves Done In And Uploaded To The Cloud

The richest people in the world always wonder if they can extend their lives farther than most mortals. After all, once you have bought literally every physical thing you could want, and have all the food and financial security you need, the only thing that’s really left to do is attempt to buy more time on this earth with which to enjoy your riches. While most billionaires simply settle for having the best healthcare in the world, and live long and productive lives, some cannot settle for conventional means, and seek increasingly insane methods in the hopes of preserving themselves forever.

Silicon Valley tech entrepreneur Sam Altman has already put down a deposit of well over 10 thousand dollars to be put on a waiting list for a small startup company called Nectome, which believes that they can actually embalm and preserve the brain so they can one day upload the contents to the cloud. The process would basically be akin to assisted suicide, as embalming and preserving the brain for later use is a 100% fatal method. To make matters more insane, the method is not even perfected enough to actually digitize the memories and upload them yet, but they are already trying to embalm brains so they can do it later. If it did work, theoretically you could keep someone’s consciousness alive by preserving their brain, and then transferring it into some kind of robot body, thus allowing them to live forever.

9. Rich People Today Are Infusing Themselves With The Blood Of Young People

The vitality of a younger person’s blood has been something cultures have long believed could potentially increase the lifespan of older people, and while most people today figure that we are well beyond that kind of craziness, the truth is that there is more of a market for that kind of thing than most people realize. Some studies have shown that older mice transfused with the blood of younger mice showed rejuvenation and lived longer — although we don’t yet have studies that demonstrate that this is the same for humans.

Still, these few tests are enough to get billionaires like Peter Thiel on board, another tech entrepreneur who has been trying out every crazy elixir he can get his hands on. Apparently, he and many other rich people are low key using the grey market to purchase young blood to transfuse into their veins, in the hopes that it will extend their overall lifespans by a few more years. While there is little evidence that the quasi-illegal market for young blood involves any exploitation, it has still raised concerns from some that if it does work, it would allow rich people to basically buy vitality off of the poor — something many ethicists fear is completely and utterly unethical in every way, shape and form.

8. The Blood Countess Bathory Did Whatever Necessary To Get Younger People’s Blood

Elizabeth Bathory hardly needs any introduction. Known as the Blood Countess, she has a reputation similar to Vlad the Impaler, the inspiration behind Dracula. However, the truth is that while Vlad Tepes was quite a ruler, so the scope of his mayhem may have been larger, Bathory may have had him beat when it comes to the sheer sadism of her actions. During her reign of terror, before King Matthias II sent people to inspect her castle after many horror stories, she is rumored to have tortured and murdered as many as 650 peasant girls — she would only be convicted of killing about 80 of them in the end.

Bathory was a uniquely sadistic individual who was a problem ever since she was a child, but it was as she started to get older, and really start to play out her most sadistic fantasies, that she made a discovery that caused her to go even more full tilt into her insane habit. Legend has it that after striking a young servant girl so hard she bled, Bathory noticed later that the blood on her hand seemed to revitalize her skin. After that incident, Bathory started bathing in blood as part of her beauty regimen to keep her skin young, and began capturing, torturing and killing more and more peasant girls so that she could maintain her youthful figure. While it’s hard to say if she really thought it would keep her immortal, or simply slow down her aging, her thirst for blood quickly became unquenchable.

7. Drinking A Potion Made With Menstrual Blood To Stay Young

Blood, as you might have guessed by now, is something of a theme when it comes to attempts at immortality. While there are other ways people have attempted it, trying to use the essence of another person to expand your life is one of the most common methods people have come up with — spawning all kinds of ridiculous variations. Now, while most blood attempts involve trying to get the blood of someone younger, somehow, into your veins, this method is a bit different. There are people who believe that drinking menstrual blood is good for you, and that it can act as an elixir that expands your life and rejuvenates your cells.

Most practitioners of this bizarre practice don’t even use proper medical methods to get the blood into their body — such as a transfusion, they just drink it. Now, there is some limited evidence that shows there may be some stem cells in menstrual blood, which could potentially be partly restorative, but the problem there is that even if it did provide some benefit, you would be very unlikely to attain that benefit simply by drinking blood. In the example a couple entries above where we talk about stem cells revitalizing mice, the fact is that those mice were carefully injected with the substance by trained medical professionals — it wasn’t just slipped into their water bottles one day.

6. Some Scientists Believe Studying Box Jellyfish Is The Key To Immortality

Humanity has been searching for immortality for as long as we have recorded history; however, while we have been looking all this time, deep beneath the ocean, there was already a creature that had achieved what many thought impossible. This creature is a species of jellyfish often called the box jellyfish colloquially, and has incredible regenerative powers that are still baffling scientists to this day. This jellyfish, under stress or pain, will start to reverse its aging until it goes back to its earliest stage, and then it starts to age forward again — this has led researchers to dub it the “Benjamin Button Jellyfish.

Unfortunately, while it may hold the key to immortality, we currently aren’t really any closer to figuring out how we could apply that to ourselves. Despite the jellyfish in question being discovered back in the ’80s, research for it simply has had very little funding or interest. There are not many scientists who specialize in that kind of tiny marine creature, and on top of that, our understanding of it in terms of applying immortality to ourselves is so limited that we simply haven’t had any major funding interest from big players. If a rich tech billionaire threw some money at the problem, perhaps we would start getting some quicker results on how, and if we could somehow apply the immortal jellyfish’s benjamin button magic to our own lives.

5. Gilgamesh Tried To Become Immortal And Learned A Great Lesson

The epic of Gilgamesh is an ancient set of poems from Sumeria, about a demi-god king who ruled a land called Uruk. Gilgamesh was a very successful leader, as he managed to rise up great cities, and many bountiful harvests. However, he was also known to be a cruel despot who enslaved his people, and raped any woman he fancied whenever he wanted. The gods felt that he was too cruel, and created and sent a giant, demi-god wild man named Enkidu to stop him. After fighting together, the two actually became best friends, and decided to team up to destroy a terrifying forest demon named Humbaba in order to solidify their place in legend.

While they were successful in this, they continued to attract more attention from the gods, and eventually drew enough of their ire that the gods killed Enkidu. Gilgamesh was distraught, and decided that he must find a way to avoid death itself, so he would not have to suffer the same horrible fate as his best friend. He began a quest to seek out a man who had survived a great flood, the Noah of ancient Sumerian tales, and a man who was said to be the only one gifted with immortality by the gods. The old immortal told him that he was only an exception, and that the gods did not create men to live forever. Overcome with pity, before he left, the old immortal’s wife convinced him to tell Gilgamesh of an herb that could make one young again. Gilgamesh did manage to find this amazing herb, the very last one of its kind in existence, but it was snatched out of his hand by a snake, who ate it and immediately became young again before Gilgamesh’s very eyes. After this, he resigned himself to death, but also realized that as a human he could attain immortality in a certain sense — by the deeds and works he had left behind.

4. Qin Shi Huang Tried To Become Immortal By Drinking Mercury, Among Other Things

Qin Shi Huang was the first emperor of unified China, and for that reason, he kind of started to get a big head about things. After all, he had all the money, power, prestige, and influence that anyone could possibly ever hope for in life — he ruled a gigantic country, and this was back in the days before the internet when other world leaders could more easily make you feel insecure on the world stage. Yes, Qin Shi Huang had it all, but he decided that what he had just wasn’t enough. The only thing he didn’t have was the ability to live forever, so he figured he might as well see if he could figure that one out.

So, he started sending scouts out to various places rumored to know something about immortality, but he never got any satisfactory results back. While he was impatiently waiting for any kind of new information, he was making use of alchemical elixirs made by Chinese medicine man of the olden days, whose knowledge of medicine was about as sophisticated as Western medicine at the time — not very — and who thought that drinking mercury, was a pretty great idea. This created a rather ironic problem, because the great emperor drank so many mercury based concoctions — mercury being the base for many different elixir attempts in ancient Chinese alchemy — that he actually died much younger than such a rich man probably would have, even back then. The first emperor of unified China died at the age of only 49, greedily swilling poison in the hopes of tyrannically lording it over all of China for the rest of the days that the sun still shines on the earth.

3. People Are Being Cryogenically Frozen After Death, Hoping One Day It Will Work

For years, rumors have abounded that Walt Disney put himself on ice, and not just in the metaphorical sense when it comes to the ice skating show that Disney does on a regular basis. Now, there actually aren’t any truth to these rumors at all — Walt Disney did not cryogenically preserve himself, and he certainly didn’t cryogenically preserve himself with the orders to only unfreeze him when all Jewish people were gone. However, while these wild rumors may be entirely apocryphal, it does not mean that there aren’t people who have taken that insane step and gone to the trouble to have their body cryogenically preserved when they died.

Multiple people have signed up for this dubious process over the years, and all of them are banking on some kind of technology possibly being a thing in the future, that can properly unfreeze and revitalize themselves. Like those who are trying to upload their brains, the technology isn’t there, may not be there for a long time, and may simply never be possible. This of course, has not stopped people who are obsessed with staying alive, but there are complications.

Most states in the United States, and most countries in the world, do not allow assisted suicide, and for the updated version of the process — that has the most success of perhaps preserving you in some way — it is akin to assisted suicide, much like the method used for embalming your brain for future uploading. This means the rich person looking to cryogenically freeze themselves may have to go through quite an ordeal when it comes to their living situation before they can properly and legally get a company to attempt to freeze them for posterity.

2. The Monks Who Mummify Themselves To Death In The Hopes Of Achieving Immortality

Throughout history, going back perhaps before we even had records, Buddhist monks of various sorts have taken to the remote mountainous regions in cloistered monasteries in order to ponder the mysteries of the universe and try to achieve some form of religious transcendence. While many Buddhist philosophies do not care much about the physical form, there have and still are some sects that not only care about the physical form, but believe that with the right process, they can make their physical bodies live forever.

In order to achieve this, they take part in a practice known as self-mummification. This gruesome practice begins with a special diet and training process that takes many years. Once the date gets closer to the mummification, the aspirant eats a special diet that is supposed to help preserve their body, including a disgusting embalming solution that they drink. They then seal themselves up inside a chamber, and are buried inside with just the slightest air hole. They continuously ring a bell to signal that they are still meditating, and when the bell stops ringing the chamber is sealed. After a few years, the chamber is opened and the body is checked for decay. If they don’t see any visible signs then they consider the self-mummification a success. Some people believe that these monks could one day wake up, in hundreds or even thousands of years, when their wisdom is once again needed.

1. The Man Who Injected Himself With Extracts From The Testicles Of Guinea Pigs And Dogs

Back in 1889, a scientist named Brown-Sequard who, up to that time, had been considered prestigious, called people together for a shocking announcement about a new discovery he had made. He started off by warming up the crowd of mostly old men by complaining about his back pain, impotence, old age and general misery from such. He told the shocked crowd that he had figured out not only a cure for impotence, but an elixir of youth that would bring the vitality back to anyone of any age. He explained that he had been experimenting on himself, by crushing up the testicles of a dog he had killed and cut open, and then straining it and making a solution with water than he then injected in his thigh. He claimed that after doing so, he was able to perform for his wife, and that he felt way stronger and more vital almost immediately. As the startled crowd listened in horror, he explained that he had tried the same thing with the testicles of a guinea pig, which had worked just as well as the dog testicles.

Unfortunately, being a time when scientific knowledge was still limited, and him being a fairly prestigious scientist, a fair number of people started to try out his crazy method. Some people would claim that it worked, but medical experts even at the time were very skeptical, especially of the claims that it could truly restore your life or youth. They tested the solution which Brown-Sequard had patented and was making some money off of, against a solution that was a placebo, and it turns out that his method actually didn’t do anything at all. Even if there was some theoretical way that it was, at least temporarily alleviating erectile dysfunction, tests on the solution showed it didn’t even contain enough of the significant ingredients to make any real difference anyways. Completely shamed, and run out of business, he lived the rest of his life in quiet anonymity — unfortunately for Brown-Sequard, injecting the crushed up balls of animals in his thigh was not actually a ticket to immortality.

10 Interesting Facts About Stranger Things

Although Netflix’s hit show Stranger Things may have always been destined for success, studios and television networks were not so enthused. Many viewers may be surprised to learn that the creators, Matt and Ross Duffer, had some difficulty getting the show made. More than 15 networks passed on the show until Netflix jumped at the opportunity, purchasing the show less than 24 hours after hearing the pitch. Here are 10 other things that you may not have known about the ’80s horror series…

10. The Creators of Stranger Things are twins

Matt and Ross Duffer were born in North Carolina, and took to filmmaking at a young age. They both moved out to Los Angeles to attend Chapman University to further their film education and get closer to the industry. After writing and directing several short films, a feature film they wrote was purchased by Warner Bros. It was eventually released in 2015, three years after its production. The Duffer Brothers’ big break came when M. Night Shyamalan read their script for the movie and hired them as writers for the TV series Wayward Pines. They have stated that their experience on Wayward Pines gave them the ability to pitch Stranger Things successfully.

The little known fact about the Duffer Brothers is that they’re twins. Even more surprising is that no one tested if they were fraternal or identical. Matt Duffer has stated that they’ve lived their lives as if they’re identical, and that testing themselves now would “mess them up psychologically.”

9. Hundreds of Kids Were Rejected

As well as the child actors have done in their starring roles on Stranger Things, it may seem like it was easy to cast those characters. The truth is that it was far from easy. One of the main difficulties in even getting the show picked up was the Duffer Brothers’ insistence that the main characters had to be children.

Once Netflix purchased the show, the auditions began, nearly 2,000 kids auditioned, including more than 300 girls trying for the role of Eleven. While that may seem excessive, it’s hard to argue with the results. One of the actors chosen, Finn Wolfhard (Mike), recorded his audition tape from his bed because he was sick. Gaten Matarazzo, who plays Dustin, was the first actor cast in the show; the creators loved him so much, they decided to give his character the same condition that Matarazzo has in real life.

8. The Composers Were Found Online

One of the best parts of Stranger Things is its impressive soundtrack. The hypnotic electronic sound masterfully sets the tone for the story, while also adding tension and conflict throughout. Surprisingly, the composers, Michael Stein and Kyle Dixon, weren’t well known. The show’s creators actually discovered their work online, leading to Stein and Dixon submitting 12 songs to land the job.

After getting rave reviews, the Duffer Brothers convinced the composers to quit their day jobs and work on the show full time. With the show’s success, Dixon and Stein have seen an uptick in the popularity of their band, Survive.

7. The Setting was Supposed to be in Montauk, New York

It might be hard to believe, but the name of the show was originally Montauk. Filming was supposed to take place in Montauk, New York, but it became unrealistic after they realized the difficulty of shooting in New York in the winter. The seaside town was an inspiration for the setting of the film Jaws, but in the end they decided to invent the town of Hawkins, Indiana.

Production eventually moved to Atlanta, and the show gained the title Stranger Things.

6. It’s Based (…kinda) on a True Story

One of the reasons that they were originally set to shoot in Montauk was its place in secret government operations. Allegedly, the United States government based projects for developing psychological warfare in Montauk. The revelations originated with Preston Nichols, who claimed to have repressed memories of experiences dealing with mind control, contact with alien life, and a supposed fake Moon landing.

While these claims may in fact be untrue, the US government’s history of performing unethical tests on its own citizens makes stories like Nichols more believable, and helped create the basis for Stranger Things. Project MKUltra is evidence that the US government did attempt to create weapons of war like Eleven. Let’s just be grateful that these projects were not successful… at least, as far as we know.

5. Sean Astin’s Character was Supposed to Die Earlier

The iconic actor known best as Mikey from The Goonies, Rudy from… well, Rudy, and Samwise Gamgee in The Lord of the Rings was a welcome addition to season two of Stranger Things. However, the show’s creators were skeptical at first. The Duffer Brothers believed that Astin may have been too famous, particularly since his role in The Goonies was a clear inspiration for the child characters in the show. In the end, they agreed to cast him, only believing he’d have a small role. However, Astin had such a positive impact on the show that his run lasted longer than the creators expected. The Duffer Brothers initially planned for Astin’s character, Bob, to die in episode four at the hands of Will, but instead Astin lasted until nearly the end and had one of the most horrific (and heroic) deaths on the show.

The Duffer Brothers stated that Bob’s death scene was the hardest scene they had to write because of the relationship that Sean Astin had formed with the cast and crew. Although Astin didn’t want to leave the show, the Duffer Brothers knew that narratively, it was the right thing to do. According to the show’s creators, Bob’s death scene was inspired by the horrific death of Quint in the film Jaws.

4. Stephen King was a Major Influence

Alright, so you probably already knew this one, especially if you’ve actually watched the show and ever read any of King’s work. Heck, the title screen of the show uses the exact same font as King’s books.

The Duffer Brothers have acknowledged that Stephen King’s work is one of their biggest inspirations for the show. One reference in season two comes when Sean Astin’s character suggests that they should move to Maine, in homage to King’s birthplace.  And it’s only fitting that he would “discover” Millie Bobby Brown. Before Brown was cast to play the role of Eleven, King tweeted that he loved her performance in the British show Intruders. It’s not hard to believe that a strong endorsement from King helped Brown land the role.

Other King references are sprinkled throughout the series. In the first season, Winona Ryder’s character asks her son, Will, if he’s still scared of clowns. A clear reference to Pennywise. And Astin’s character also makes a much more explicit reference to Pennywise in season two. The character of Eleven could also be seen as a direct homage to King’s Charlie McGee, the young female protagonist in his novel Firestarter. Both Eleven and Charlie McGee have psychic abilities and both are on the run from nefarious organizations.

3. Millie Bobby Brown’s Dad Cried When She Cut Her Hair

One of the difficult parts of casting children is knowing their limits. In order to convince Millie Bobby Brown to shave her head, the Duffer Brothers showed her pictures of Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road. When the time came, and Brown agreed, her father turned away, with tears in his eyes as Brown’s curls got shaved away. Despite her father’s reaction, Brown calls the decision the best she’s ever made.

2. Scaring Will’s (Real-Life) Mother with a Cadaver

In one of the most bizarre incidents during the production of the show, the Duffer brothers thought it’d be a good idea to show Noah Schnapp’s (the child actor who plays Will) mother a frighteningly realistic “corpse” of her son. This stems from the season one plot line in which the shady government agency has created a replica of Will in order to cover up his disappearance.

They led her to a dark corner of the props room and revealed the corpse, which shocked her. According to the Duffer Brothers she loved it, but only after the shock subsided. It’d be hard for Schnapp’s mother not to have a few nightmares after that frightening day on set.

1. The Kiss at the Snow Ball

One of the most heartwarming moments of the series took place on the last episode of season two. All was right again in Hawkins (…well, not really, since the world is never OK in this show), with the demigorgons and the Shadow Monster seemingly defeated. The friends attend the Snow Ball dance, where Lucas’s romance with Max culminated with a kiss, while Mike got his wish with the arrival of Eleven, and they too shared a romantic kiss. What few fans know about Mike’s kiss with Eleven was that he quietly mouthed the words, “I’m coming in,” before leaning in to kiss his co-star. After both couples kissed, the whole crew broke out in applause. It became so overwhelming that Millie Bobby Brown said the remaining takes became so much worse to film.

For Caleb McLaughlin and Sadie Sink, the actors who played Lucas and Max, their kiss at the Snow Ball was their first actual kiss. And while there was controversy surrounding that particular kiss as it was initially suggested Sink was coerced into doing something she wasn’t comfortable with, she has since denied that she was forced to do anything against her will.